Website’s gift cards enable charitable donations

by Bob Mook

December 4, 2009

Local nonprofits hope the trend of online shopping and gift cards will translate to donations for charities this holiday season.

Last year, Frank and Jennifer Callahan launched a new, Denver-based nonprofit organization called There, gift buyers purchase charitable gift cards, which are mailed to recipients. The latter then choose from among nearly 150 nonprofit organizations at to receive contributions.

Frank Callahan said the idea of a gift card that could be redeemed online sprung from the struggle of finding creative gifts for his family.

“My father-in-law is someone who doesn’t need or want anything, yet every year, we feel compelled to give him something,” Callahan said. “One year, we made a contribution in his name to a World War II veteran memorial fund and it struck him right to the core. We knew it was a good thing.”

Callahan said the donation started a new tradition, which inspired the family to find new ways to spread the spirit of philanthropy while making donations easy and accessible. In his day job, Callahan is an architectural lighting consultant — a business he said has been hit hard by the recession. His wife, Jennifer, is a marketing professional.

The website was a moderate success last year, considering the state of the economy, Callahan said. Corporate clients included Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. (which bought cards for its board of directors as a holiday gift) and Denver-based Colorado Custom Spas (which gave cards to 20 employees as a holiday bonus).

Callahan expects will sell up to 1,000 charitable gift cards this year. He is promoting the concept through contacts in the business world and by word of mouth through friends and family.

Donation levels start at $25 and include a $4.50 transaction fee.

Card sales remain modest, but Callahan hopes they’ll grow.

“The dream or goal is that it will become a self-sustaining venture that benefits a great many charities,” he said.

Sharon Knight, vice president and chief operating officer of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, said the concept is a good one, and other Denver-area charities are exploring it.

The Community First Foundation’s offers giving eCards that allow individuals to gift any dollar amount to a recipient. Since its inception in May 2007, has facilitated more than 7,500 donations, totaling more than $2 million, to more than 250 charities.

Though charitable contributions are expected to be down in 2009 from previous years, Knight said the Internet offers hope for nonprofits.

If statistics from the private sector are an indication, gift cards and the Internet could be a great new frontier for the nonprofit world.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shoppers nationwide will buy almost $25 billion in gift cards, averaging about $40 a card. Its recent survey showed that 55.2 percent of adults chose gift cards as their most desired holiday present, making it the most popular single category.

And while holiday sales at traditional retailers is up slightly or flat from the sluggish 2008 shopping season, online sales for Cyber Monday (named for the Internet’s busiest online shopping day) reached $887 million on Nov. 30 — a 5 percent jump from the previous year, according to ComScore Inc., a Reston, Va., market research company that provides marketing data and services to many of the Internet’s largest businesses.

Read more: Website’s gift cards enable charitable donations - Denver Business Journal

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